Every night, my father would be sitting at his table, Bible and notebook open before him, eyes attentively following each line. My mother would be busy in the study, preparing materials for Sunday school lessons, or asking us, her four children, about our day.
If I had to answer, in one word, how I ended up in missions, it would be: Family.
Not that my parents or any of my siblings were missionaries; in fact, no one in my immediate family is in any form of full-time church work, nor did they ever pressure me in that direction. Rather, ever since I was little, all the foundational elements of an abundant Christian life – the joys of reading the Bible, the power of prayer, the vitality of Christian community – were not only taught to me by my family, but were daily and actively lived out before my infantile, then adolescent eyes.
Moreover, as I grew up under wise Christian teachers, what became increasingly clear to me was the purpose of the Christian life. The well-known Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever,” and as my own local church’s vision puts it, “To know and proclaim Jesus Christ.”
These things stuck, and as my family lived out these principles, I, almost without realising it, made it my ambition to love the LORD with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Growing as a disciple of Christ, then, was the central theme of my adolescent years. Often it came into conflict with concerns about academics, co-curricular activities, and romantic relationships, and a big part of my teenage years was surrendering these things to God, usually with mixed results.
Stepping into missions was a natural progression in this journey of discipleship. I told God, “I want to grow as Your disciple,” and He made it clear over the course of several years that the mission field would play a key part in that journey. In going to missions, I would have to surrender certain privileges, but would conversely receive certain blessings which would have been otherwise unobtainable.
So to South Asia I went, and was not disappointed. There I encountered different dynamics of Christian community which transcended ethnicity, age-group, and language. There I encountered a whole new dimension of spiritual conflict and victory. And there I encountered human depravity, suffering, and brokenness more keenly than ever before, both within and without.
Missions is an act of worship and discipleship. God did not send me to the mission field because I was perfect or could do great things – He sent me because I offered my half-baked life for His service.
And freely I offered it because, over the course of my life, I was blessed to see real-life examples of such obedience in my parents and siblings.
Parents who live out lives of wholehearted obedience to God leave a lasting legacy on their family. The greatest commandment - to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” - is followed closely with the words – “You shall teach them diligently to your children.”
When parents cultivate in their children a desire to know and love God, a life of worship unto Him naturally follows, be it in the mission field, the local church, the school, and even in the home (albeit with many hurdles). Sadly, however, when parents fail to cultivate such a desire for God, worldly influences are very quick to step in and instead make idols out of money, games, popularity or grades.
My hope is that, beginning first in biological Christian families, parents will make a home where Christ is rightly adored as the source and purpose of all life – let status, success, and sin be put into proper perspective. Then let the church, as the spiritual family, pursue the worship of God and discipleship of youth boldly, faithfully, and humbly. Ideally, both the biological and spiritual families of a young Christian should work hand-in-hand to guide the youth through the often-tumultuous growing-up years, where one’s identity, values and purpose in life are often pieced together.
Not all Christians are called to missions. But all Christians are called to an active life of worship and discipleship. What a wonderful day it will be when we see God’s family doing just that.
Noel is an undergraduate student who worships at Living Waters Methodist Church in Singapore. After completing his National Service, he undertook a missions assignment with OM South Asia in 2015 for ten months, and has not looked back since.